We recently caught up with the lovely Jillian Manning for a quick Q&A about the fabulous world of book publishing.
Sammi (Austin Macauley's Digital Marketing Manager): In your experience, what options does the average Joe/unheard of writer have when it comes to wanting to have their book published?
Jillian Manning (Independent Publisher's Contributing Editor): There are a number of ways to be published, but here are the top three.
1. Go the traditional route. This involves finding a literary agent who will then shop your book to traditional publishers. This route can be tricky as there are no guarantees to getting your book published, but it also is a historically proven way to publish and allows you to work with a professional team.
2. Go the self-published route. Literally anyone can self-publish to varying degrees of success, and the process can be as simple as posting a manuscript online or as detailed as hiring an editor and a designer and a marketer.
3. Go the hybrid route, which can give you access to publishing professionals and distribution (sometimes at a cost) while still giving the you a great deal of freedom in the publishing process. The hybrid route comes in many shapes and sizes and can often be customized to fit the needs of an author.
Sammi: Is becoming an over-night best seller actually possible? What expectations should a first time author have, realistically?
Jillian: In my experience, becoming an overnight bestseller is only possible when there is a HUGE marketing push behind the book. In which case I suppose it wouldn't be an overnight success, but could mean a debut author could make a big splash with their first book.
Most first-time authors should expect to see a few thousand units in sales, provided the writing is strong, there is a market for the book, and some promotional work is done around the launch. The most important thing is to keep working and building toward continued sales and potentially a second book!
Sammi: Who’s your favourite indie/self-published author?
Jillian: That's a tough question! I'd say one of my favorites is Kathleen Shoop, who wrote 'The Last Letter and After the Fog'. I even interviewed her for an article once - check it out here!
Sammi: We’ve a lot of people worried to submit their work because they struggle with spelling etc. What advice would you give them at the early stages?
Jillian: If you have the money, hire a professional editor. They can make a world of difference for your book. If you don't have the budget, join a writing group and find a critique partner, someone who will read and edit your book in exchange for you reading and editing their book.
I also recommend reading books about writing, like Strunk and White's 'Elements of Style' or Stephen King's 'On Writing'. The more you learn about your craft, the better you will be!
Sammi: How important, to you personally, is a good book cover design?
Jillian: We all say "don't judge a book by its cover," and then we turn around and do just that. In all honesty, a great cover can make or break a sale, whether you're shopping in a store or looking at thumbnail images online. Having a strong cover image, a legible title, and a professional design is hugely important to making a good first impression with your book.
Sammi: We’re a hybrid publisher, meaning we offer both Traditional and Partnership contracts, are there any tips you’d give a new author when submitting to a hybrid publisher?
Jillian: I'd first recommend authors learn about their options with a hybrid publisher. There are a lot of great opportunities, and it's useful to come to the discussion informed. Second, I'd say authors should decide which routes they are comfortable going--if they only want a traditional deal or if they are interested in a partnership. And finally, authors should be open-minded and ready to learn more, as each publisher operates differently.
Sammi: We try and educate our authors on the importance of pre and post book launch marketing, of both themselves and their work. What tips would you give any first time author with no previous experience of marketing themselves to an online audience?
Jillian: It's so important to have a professional online presence, which can manifest as a website, blog, social media, or a combination of the three. When interacting with followers and potential customers, remember to be genuine, to post relevant content, and to stay away from spamming your fans. Marketing is important, but not every post should be about your book.
Sammi: What was your favourite childhood book and why?
Jillian: Is it too cliche to say 'Harry Potter'? If so, my runner-up would be Tamora Pierce's 'Lioness Quartet'. For those unfamiliar, the series follows a young girl who wants to be a knight...in a world where women are definitely not allowed to by knights. (Spoiler, she also has some pretty awesome magic powers.) The protagonist, Alanna, is fierce, funny, and not afraid to take chances, make mistakes, or learn new things. Basically, she was - and is - my hero.
Sammi: When editing written work, are there any rituals/routines you adhere to which get your mind focused?
Jillian: I love to listen to Ludovico Einaudi, who is a genius Italian composer. He always sets me in a creative, productive space. From there, I always edit electronically, but I often keep a handwritten list of high-level notes I want to address. I think I write these down because then I can cross them off when they are done, and truly, what is more satisfying than crossing things off your to-do list?
Sammi: What book have you read more than once?
Jillian: Lots of them! A few that come to mind are 'Pride and Prejudice', 'Harry Potter', 'The Snatchabook' (the world's best picture book, in my humble opinion), and Anne Lamott's 'Bird by Bird'. (Fun fact, I hated both 'Pride and Prejudice' and 'Bird by Bird' when I first read them in high school...I now own several copies of each.)
Sammi: And a final random question… favourite illustrator?
Jillian: At the moment, I'd have to go with Ed Vere, who writes and illustrates the 'Max' series ('Max the Brave', 'Max at Night', 'Max and Bird'). His work is charming and hilarious, and the man completely understands cats.